Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


A novel surface marker helps scientists 'fish out' mammary gland stem cells

Stem cells are different from all other cells in our body because they retain the remarkable genetic plasticity to self-renew indefinitely as well as develop into cell types with more specialized functions. However, this remarkable self-renewal capacity comes with a price, as stem cells can become seeds of cancer.

Identifying genetic programs that maintain self-renewing capabilities therefore is a vital step in understanding the errors that derail a normal stem cell, sending it on a path to become a cancer stem cell.

Isolating cells from various other cell types is very much like fishing -- you need a good "hook" that can recognize a specific protein marker on the surface of a cell, in order to pull that cell out. Until now, isolating pure mammary gland stem cells (MaSCs), which are important in mammary gland development as well as breast cancer formation, has posed a challenge. MaSCs are scarce and share common cell-surface markers with other cells. In a paper published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists in the laboratory of Professor Gregory Hannon at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) used a mouse model to identify a novel cell surface marker on MaSCs. Using that marker, the team was able to assemble a sample of MaSCs of unprecedented purity.

"We are describing a marker called Cd1d," says CSHL research investigator Camila Dos Santos, Ph.D., the paper's first author. The marker, also present at the surface of specialized immune cells, is expressed on the surface of a defined population of mammary cells in both mice and humans.

The team took advantage of the fact that MaSCs divide much slower than other cells. They utilized a mouse strain, which expresses a green fluorescent protein, or GFP, in a subtype of epithelial cells, including MaSCs. The trick is that this gene can be turned off by feeding mice a chemical called doxycycline. "The beauty of [this model] is that by stopping GFP expression, you can directly measure the number of cell divisions that have happened since GFP was turned off," Dos Santos explains. "The cells that divide the least will carry GFP the longest and are the ones we characterized."

Using this approach, Dos Santos and her colleagues were able to select stem cells in the mammary glands to examine their gene expression signature. They confirmed that a purification method that used Cd1d, in combination with other known markers, greatly enhanced purity compared to other methods, including those previously published.

"With this advancement, we are now able to profile normal and cancer stem cells at a very high degree of purity , and perhaps point out which genes should be investigated as the next breast cancer drug targets," says Professor Hannon, who is also an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

This research was supported by NIH Grand Opportunity Award #1 RC2 CA148507 and P01 Award 2P01CA013106.

keywords: stem cells, cancer, breast cancer, mouse models

"Molecular hierarchy of mammary differentiation yields refined markers of mammary stem cells" appeared online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The authors are: Camila O. dos Santos, Clare Rebbeck, Elena Rozhkova, Amy Valentine, Abigail Samuels, Lolahon Kadiri, Pavel Osten, Elena Y. Harris, Phillip J. Urei, Andrew D. Smith, and Gregory J. Hannon.

The paper can be obtained at: DOI:10.1073/pnas.1303919110

About Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Founded in 1890, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) has shaped contemporary biomedical research and education with programs in cancer, neuroscience, plant biology and quantitative biology. CSHL is ranked number one in the world by Thomson Reuters for impact of its research in molecular biology and genetics. For more information, visit

Peter Tarr | EurekAlert!
Further information:

Further reports about: CSHL GFP Merit Award breast cancer cell type immune cell mouse model stem cells

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>